It’s that time of the year again, when reindeer prance down our chimneys to bring us warm sleighs and children are hung by the windows with care. It’s a time when families gather around the television with toasted eggnog kringles for their annual viewing of Christmas Comes to Pac-Land and Walter Matthau in that holiday favorite KOTCH.
“But Paul,” you say, “my family’s holiday favorite KOTCH isn’t available on any streaming service! What should I do instead?”
Well, first off, take a look at your choices and your reliance on streaming media. The idea of streaming media as a complete source for all of your entertainment needs is a long way off, and it’ll be even longer with net neutrality regulations going away. Streaming services are great for instant gratification when it comes to entertainment decisions that can be made on the fly, but when it comes to planning – well, maybe you and your kin should have held onto that DVD of KOTCH that you threw into a box to go to your local thrift store because “it’ll be on streaming or whatever” two years ago. But you didn’t, and now Christmas is ruined and the children are crying and Grandma has the vapors.
It’s a good thing that I’m here.
There are, thankfully, plenty of holiday options for cinematic entertainment on streaming. There are, for example, about 73,821 films with CHRISTMAS in the tile that were made for various cable channels that all seem to have exactly the same cover art (give or take a tree in the background) and feature smiling people finding romance, puppies, princes, hope, or a combination of these. I’m sure they’re different and I’m sure someone can tell you which ones are good. However, it’s a subgenre I know nothing about and will pass on to someone wiser to evaluate. (Except SANTA BUDDIES, which I’ve inexplicably seen. It’s not very good.) The exception to this rule is YES, VIRGINIA, THERE IS A SANTA CLAUS, a 1991 made-for-television film which pairs Charles Bronson with future horror icon Katharine Isabelle. That’s on Hoopla and at Shout Factory TV, so you can watch it now for free! A Christmas without Bronson is no Christmas at all.
Bronson aside, if you’re reading this, you’re probably looking for holiday entertainment that’s a bit more out of the ordinary. Unfortunately, a lot of the subscription-based streaming services have dropped the ball when it comes to holiday fare, and many of the most obvious titles loved by today’s modern film fan (DIE HARD, SCROOGED, NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION, A CHRISTMAS STORY – even IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE) aren’t available on subscription-based services, so you’ll have to shell out a few bucks for a rental. (DIE HARD is available on Cinemax, but really, who has Cinemax now that Friday After Dark is gone?) Heck, RICHIE RICH’S CHRISTMAS WISH the Hulk Hogan classic SANTA WITH MUSCLES isn’t even available to stream if you pay for it. I bet you’re longing for a video store now, eh, bucko?
If you’re a cheap bastard, however, and only want to deal with the services you’ve got a subscription to, there are many options available. The festival favorite Christmas horror pic NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH re-emerged as BETTER WATCH OUT and is now available on Shudder and Netflix. More recent holiday horrors can be shad with 2015 horror pic KRAMPUS on HBO GO, the horror anthology A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY or Dee Wallace in RED CHRISTMAS on Netflix, the SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT remake SILENT NIGHT on Tribeca Shortlist (who has a whole host of offbeat Christmas titles here – oddly, they’re the only streaming service to do this, and it’s a great idea), the Christmas-set thriller P2 on Shudder and TubiTV, and the excellent Finnish tale of a very bad Santa RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE accessibly via Shudder, Amazon Prime, Tribeca Shortlist, Hoopla and FilmStruck.
If you want to dig past the new release wall, you can certainly find even more treasures. The must-see slasher classic BLACK CHRISTMAS is available on Shudder and Hoopla (the remake is only available on Starz, otherwise you’ll have to pay three bucks for a rental), while 1980’s CHRISTMAS EVIL is on Shudder, Exploitation.tv and Midnight Pulp. Joe Dante’s GREMLINS can be watched via Netflix, while Ted Gershuny’s weirdo 1972 flick SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT is on TubiTV and Exploitation.tv and Roberta Findlay’s 1985 supernatural tale THE ORACLE (not often mentioned with Christmas horror films, but it totally is one) is on Amazon Prime. The killer snowman pic JACK FROST is on Amazon Prime, Shudder, Vudu (for free, with commercials) and Epix, while the sequel is solely on prime. The original SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT and its first sequel and the Santa-as-victim slasher DON’T OPEN UNTIL CHRISTMAS need to be purchased on their own, while plenty of Christmas horror pics (ELVES, SILENT NIGHT 3-5) will need you to grab your physical media. Which YOU STILL HAVE, DON’T YOU? You’d better. I’m watching you.
Let’s say, however, there are kids in the room. (Well, there’s still GREMLINS! I saw GREMLINS when I was 9. I’m fine. Probably.) You can still have a good time with A NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS on Netflix (Is it a Christmas film? Or a Halloween film? Neither! It’s just a perfectly good film and maybe we should stop having pointless arguments about genre.) or the 1970 musical version of SCROOGE with Albert Finney on Amazon Prime. If you want to branch out, how about Pia Zadora’s best film, SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS (on Full Moon, TubiTV, and Hoopla), Rene Cardona’s batshit 1959 fantasy SANTA CLAUS (available with Mystery Science Theater 3000 commentary on Shout Factory TV or without on Fandor), the wacko SANTA’S CHRISTMAS CIRCUS on Hoopla, or the inexplicable SANTA AND THE ICE CREAM BUNNY on Amazon Prime or Hoopla, featuring Santa introducing a feature-length version of THUMBELINA?
In any case, it’s best to end the evening with a classic like PEE-WEE’S PLAYHOUSE CHRISTMAS SPECIAL on Netflix, as Christmas isn’t Christmas without a coked-up k.d. lang singing “Jingle Bell Rock” or Grace Jones singing the only tolerable version of “The Little Drummer Boy” ever recorded. Amazon Prime also offers Christmas specials with Mr. Magoo, and B.C., the latter featuring Bob and Ray!
In short, there should be plenty of holiday-related entertainment to keep you busy without falling back on having to watch – ugh – live television. If you’d like a full list of psychotronic streaming titles for the holidays, check out Watch This Thing, where I’ll be keeping a daily update on the stuff available.
Happy Streaming, and To All a Good Bandwidth!
- JIM WYNORSKI RETURNS WITH THE CREATURE FEATURE ‘GILA’ - May 1, 2014
Tags: Amazon Prime, Bob and Ray, Christmas, Cinemax, Columns, Epix, FilmStruck, Full Moon, Grace Jones, Holidays, Hoopla, Hulk Hogan, joe dante, Katharine Isabelle, Mr. Magoo, Netflix, Pia Zadora, Santa Claus, Shout Factory TV, Shudder, streaming, Tribeca Shortlist